If having a child has taught me anything, it’s been the value of my free time. Never one to sit still much, the inability to do anything at all during the kid’s first year of life almost broke me. I tried so hard, every day, to do something- tiny projects, a little bit of paperwork, a little yard work-but time and time again, I wound up holding and bouncing and sitting with a colicky infant. It was the closest I have ever come to giving everything up and running away. Feeling useless, tired and stressed for that long, is too long.
It was never supposed to be like that. I got laid off from my job the very day Trex turned three months old. Part of me had wanted to quit anyway, but hey-recession. There were no jobs. So in addition to not doing anything all day, I stayed up all night sending out resumes, trying to find anything at all that would pay what daycare would cost me. It felt like an endless period of frustration, depression and resentment.
I couldn’t take it any longer and I forced myself to start changing things. Trex was about 6 or 7 months old when I started my solo podcast, Ten Minutes of Me. I used it as a platform to rant, cry, laugh, and tell stories for about ten minutes a day. There were no parameters or formats, I just sat in front of a mic and went. It was cathartic; it was healing. The show was what I needed in that dark time, it was like having a close friend to talk to about anything, once a day.
Plus, I was making something. It was a small goal, but I could get a little thing completed each and every day. Many shows had Trex in the back ground, or even on the mic. The amount of support I got from people who’d found the show, complete strangers, was unexpected and touching. In time, Ten Minutes was getting 100+ downloads a day. I had finally accomplished something and it started me moving again. At over 100 episodes, I ended the show to devote time to different projects. In a cruel twist of fate, my external hard drive that housed all the shows died, and all that work is lost to me now.
On a whim, in November that year, I did National Novel Writing Month. At 80K words, the book is a clusterfuck and unfinished, but beautiful in what I accomplished. The next year, Shaun and I started a short-lived show called Bad. Wrong. Fun. about RPG’s. Gaming shows have never been my favorite, but that one was fun while it lasted. I did various other projects in the meantime, some jewelry making, housing improvements, and landscaping. Again in November, I wrote a novel. This one had outlines, character info, a clear plot, and the words flew away from me. I’m now on my second editing pass of that before it goes off to a couple more readers.
In addition, I started my baby, a loosely formatted talk show called Talking Shit with Dave and Earl. It has ran regularly, once a week, since December. Tonight we’ll record the 20th episode, 19 of those consecutive. I’ve written three short stories, all different genres, and am starting my third book.
In the midst of all this, I started running. I did a 5K in October with two weeks training, and a 10K in November. A good friend pushed me to join his Tough Mudder team, and I’m incredibly grateful. I now do a full-body circuit workout 3 times a week. I feel, and I feel like I look, fantastic.
Why the laundry list of projects? Because I’m fucking busy. It seems like the majority of the work I do is work I’ve designed myself. I don’t need to write and edit, I don’t need to workout, and I don’t need to produce shows.
But I do. This is my route to sanity and happiness. If that means that I don’t watch TV or play video games or go to parties, so be it. That depression that followed having a child was the worst time in my life. I’ve found that if I can set goals, however arbitrary, and work to meet them, I stay sane and I stay happy. Shaun and I’s relationship improves and mentally, I’m okay.
This brings me back to time. The one thing parenthood has taught me, above all else, is what my time is worth. I spend all day on the go, be it working or working around the house, and chasing the toddler. That part doesn’t stop-I spend all day chasing the toddler. From the time he wakes us up until we put him to bed, we are in full-on parent mode. You don’t get a break from the little guy.
So at the end of the day, after every one is fed, bathed, and Trex is in bed, that’s my time. That’s the time that I spend working my ass off for my own sanity. I use those meager hours for writing or learning or working out. Free evenings are worth their weight in gold to me, and weekend seem doubly so.
I love you guys. I love my real life friends. But it’s difficult for our childless friends to understand sometimes. I know Trex is welcome at a party, but they don’t tend to start until after his bedtime. I don’t want to fight a 2 year old at a party. And if that’s my option, I don’t want to sacrifice those hours I could use on me. Every late-night or long-term excursion is a trial, between taking the kid and making arrangements for the dogs.
So I’m sorry if I don’t come to your parties. I’m sorry if I can’t make engagements 90 minutes away that take place in the evening (or anytime). My priority is to Trex first, and then to myself. Many of my friends have infinite patience and understanding, and I can’t overstate how awesome that is. Kid or no, they get it, and it means the world to me.
If you don’t, I’m sorry. You don’t fit in my plan for happiness and sanity. I’ll miss you.